Locals always timed their walk past the sculptor’s studio for when the heat from the oxy-acetylene torch caused him to open the door. The current project, ‘Tommy’, was shrouded in secrecy but, with its hard steel construction, a warrior seemed a likely subject.

“It might be a brave redcoat who offered no more than a cross as signature,” they said. “He would go to war as Tommy despite the tears of his mother for William or Madison or James. Or It could be Thomas Atkins; that’s what Wellington called a fearless private who told him dying was all in a day’s work. The rusted-finish metal Ray is using would suit one of the Iron Duke’s soldiers.”

Subsequent spying missions disproved their guesses as the sculptor wrought his magic on his rectangles of steel, welding the plates into curves and straights. It became clear from the ‘tin’ hat, rifle and shoulder bag that this was a generic English ‘Tommy’ from the trenches of Verdun. Now they envisaged a strong, rugged statue, standing tall and proud.

With time the man of steel’s stance changed. The march-strengthened legs, in puttee leggings above strong boots, splayed out. The flaps of the greatcoat parted, and what they thought would be a plinth was a kit box seat. Then the plates forming the back started to bend over. What was going on? A hand flopped listlessly over one knee, the head bowed, the hat brim hiding the expression of the face of this everyman soldier as he looked down. Was it dejection, or disillusionment?

January 1919. Thomas Watson pulled a smoke out of his kitbag, and looked out to sea in his hometown, Seaham. wondering if the welcome from his family would be echoed by the girl whose photograph he still clutched. His only feeling since November was of numbness, but not enough to quell the memories of lost comrades. Too nervous to walk the final yards to the village yet, he sat down, head in hands, and stared at the ground. He didn’t feel like a man of steel, rather of marshmallow.

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    2 years ago

    Very well written. We feel as if this is a real sculpture in England. We also felt pity for Thomas Watson as his pain will be forever on display. A truly original perspective on a statue forming, with keen insights on the complex purposes of public art. Great surprise ending for the source of inspiration!  

    Greene M Wills
    Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
    2 years ago

    Any event can bring inspiration, even a war… I guess Thomas had so much to remember and even more to forget.

    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    2 years ago

    Super story Susan, and although not the typical pose depicted by artists, is probably far more accurate to show how those men felt. I must have a look at it next time we’re up that way.

    Melissa Taggart
    Melissa Taggart(@melissa-taggart)
    2 years ago

    The last line in this story is particularly powerful. Great job! It is a monumental task to just be tough at all times. We are all fragile at times. I really feel for Tommy.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    2 years ago

    I love the last paragraph of this story. A very inspiring yet heartbreaking story for some lost comrades. It is a very tough situation for Thomas.

    Eric Radcliffe
    Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
    2 years ago

    Well written Susan, the futility of war will always be written about, seen through so many different eyes. You summed this up beautifully in the ‘every-man soldier’.

    Dipayan Chakrabarti
    Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
    2 years ago

    In this story intensity and softness blend together beautifully.

    Katerina Bizirtsaki
    Katerina Bizirtsaki(@katerina-bizirtsaki)
    2 years ago

    What a lovely story Susan, and another one that has its roots deep in history. Well done!

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